OMAHA, Neb. • No. 3 Mississippi State entered the bottom of the ninth inning trailing Auburn 4-1 after stranding 11 men on base, seven of which were in scoring position.
But the Bulldogs battled right down to the final out and their perseverance paid off with a 5-4 victory in walk-off fashion.
"No matter the situation, if you give our offense one more chance to swing the bats and keep it close, that what they can do, that's what they're capable of," said MSU closer Cole Gordon. "I watched them do it all year."
Jake Mangum led off the bottom of the ninth with a double off the right field wall prompting the Tigers to bring in Tanner Burns from the bullpen.
Burns stuck out the first man he faced but walked the next. Elijah MacNamee followed by ripping an RBI double down the left field line and MSU scored again on a Justin Foscue ground out.
Dustin Skelton’s routine grounder to third appeared to be the game’s final out but Auburn’s Edouard Julien air-mailed his throw to first, allowing the tying run to score from second.
"We had a chance to win the baseball game, I don't think there's any doubt about that," said Auburn coach Butch Thompson. "And just one play away tonight."
The Tigers elected to walk Rowdey Jordan to setup a force play but Marshall Gilbert’s chopper up the middle proved to be the game-winner to cap MSU 28th come-from-behind victory of the season.
"I was in awe by everybody that was able to get the job done before me," Gilbert said. "It was incredible the fact that we could get to the point where I was coming to the plate ... I was looking to get the job done, get on top and stay short – something I've been doing all year."
The Bulldogs (52-13) advance to play Vanderbilt in the winner’s bracket game on Tuesday at 6 p.m. on ESPN. The Commodores defeated Louisville 3-1 earlier Sunday.
Auburn (38-27) plays an elimination game against the Cardinals on Tuesday at 1 p.m.
State finished with a dozen hits led by Mangum, MacNamee and Skelton with two apiece.
"We were a little frustrated tonight," said MSU coach Chris Lemonis. "It really wasn't typical for us for so many innings and you can tip your hat to their pitching for that. But in that ninth inning, that was us. That's what we do."
Diamond Dog starting pitcher Ethan Small began the game on a roll. The junior left-hander struck out the first five Auburn hitters of the game but hit a snag with two outs in the second inning.
Small surrendered an infield single to Rankin Woley and then Julien launched a 429-foot home run into the right field stands. Julien’s shot tied for the longest home run ever hit at TD Ameritrade Park.
Julien struck again in the top of the fourth frame with a two-out RBI single to put the Tigers on top 3-0.
After stranding four runners in scoring position through the first five innings, the Bulldogs were finally able to scratch a run across in the sixth. Foscue singled to lead-off the frame and Skelton walked, which spelled the end of the game for Auburn starter Jack Owen – a former MSU commitment.
Gunner Halter spun an RBI single through the right side off reliever Elliott Anderson – another former Bulldog pledge. The Diamond Dogs later loaded the bases but left them loaded for the second time in the game.
Auburn added an insurance run to its lead in the next half inning on a throwing error by Foscue with two outs.
Gordon (5-0) got the win for MSU, working the final inning with three strikeouts.
Small allowed three runs on three hits with eight strikeouts and three walks and exited after five innings and 102 pitches. It tied his shortest stint of the season.
Auburn had six hits led by Julien going 2 for 4 with a home run and three RBIs.